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Nelson town board works to improve alternate process for planning board, ZBA

— The Nelson Town Board last week discussed how to improve the quality of its planning board and zoning board of appeals alternates by ensuring that candidates for the positions understand the requirements, education and dedication necessary to do the job.

The issue was broached by Councilor John Laubscher, the board liaison to the planning board and ZBA, who said that the alternates approved by the town board since the practice of having alternates was created in April 2013 have not seemed to understand their responsibilities nor have they attended the required training classes.

The board approved the emendation to the local law in 2013 to allow for alternate members to be added to both the planning board and ZBA as a way to ensure a full complement of each board when in session if a member was absent or had a conflict of interest. The alternates, similar to alternates on a jury, would attend every board meeting and be subject to the same training and rules, but not vote unless needed.

Appointments as a board alternate are temporary, one-year appointments. Each board can have two alternates.

Launscher said the alternates during the past 16 months have not attended the state-mandated training courses, nor have they attended every meeting of their respective boards. They also do not seem to have understood exactly how and when they are expected to vote on issues before their respective boards.

“This is not a casual job,” Town Supervisor Roger Bradstreet said.

Councilor John LaGorga agreed, saying “It is expected that they will be regular members of the boards.”

Laubscher explained the appointment requirements: That every alternate must attend the same training courses that regular planning board and ZBA members attend; they must attend every meeting of their respective board so they understand the topics and issues before the body; and they only vote when regular board members are absent or have conflicts of interest and therefore there is no board quorum.

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